Poetry Out Loud gets new state champ


COLUMBIA, S.C. – The state finals for Poetry Out Loud, a national poetry recitation and performance competition, yielded a new state champion from Spartanburg who will represent South Carolina in the national competition.

Catherine Wooten. Provided photo.

Catherine Wooten, a junior who attends Westgate Christian School in Spartanburg, returned to the state finals and earned first prize over five other finalists in the first in-person competition since 2019.

As state winner, Wooten will receive a $200 prize and get to represent South Carolina in the national finals competition among a total of 55 state and jurisdictional finalists for the chance to win the $20,000 first prize. The 2023 national finals will also be held from May 8-10 in Washington and will stream on arts.gov, the website of the National Endowment for the Arts.

The South Carolina Arts Commission coordinates Poetry Out Loud in South Carolina, partnering with the NEA and the Poetry Foundation to bring the competition to South Carolina 9-12 graders.

The finalists recited a poem each in rounds one and two before the top three scorers proceeded to the final round: Wooten, the two-time defending state champion Emily Allison of Greenville’s Fine Arts Center, and Jessie Leitzel who attends Charleston County School of the Arts.

Wooten recited “Time Does not Bring Relief: You All Have Lied” by Edna St. Vincent Millay in the final round, edging Leitzel, who was named first runner-up. Leitzel recited and “If They Should Come for Us” by Fatimah Asghar.

Jennifer Bartell Boykin, poet laureate for the city of Columbia; Eric Bultman, actor and theatre instructor; Ed Madden, poet and University of South Carolina English professor; and Dr. Michele Reese, professor at USC Sumter, served as judges. Serving as host was Ray McManus, English professor at USC Sumter and soon-to-be recipient of the South Carolina Governor’s Award for the Arts in the artist category. Thomas Maluck, Richland Library teen services librarian, was the prompter. From the SCAC, Kevin Flarisee of Columbia was accuracy judge, Daphne Hudson of Aiken was the tabulator, and Bonita Peeples of Columbia is Poetry Out Loud program coordinator.


A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the dates of the national Poetry Out Loud finals in Washington. The dates have been corrected in the story.-Ed.

About Poetry Out Loud

A partnership of the National Endowment for the Arts, Poetry Foundation, and the state and jurisdictional arts agencies, Poetry Out Loud is a national arts education program that encourages the study of great poetry by offering free educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition to high schools across the country. Learn more at PoetryOutLoud.org.

About the South Carolina Arts Commission

The mission of the South Carolina Arts Commission (SCAC) is to promote equitable access to the arts and support the cultivation of creativity in South Carolina. We envision a South Carolina where the arts are valued and all people benefit from a variety of creative experiences.

A state agency created by the South Carolina General Assembly in 1967, the SCAC works to increase public participation in the arts by providing grants, direct programs, staff assistance and partnerships in four areas: arts learning, community and traditional arts, artist development, and arts industry. Headquartered in Columbia, S.C., the SCAC is funded by the state of South Carolina, by the federal government through the National Endowment for the Arts, and other sources. Visit SouthCarolinaArts.com or call 803.734.8696, and follow @scartscomm on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for #Arts4SC and #SCartists content.

South Carolina Arts Commission News Release, Media Contact: Jason L. Rapp, Communications Director. jrapp@arts.sc.gov or 803.734.8899